Column: Walla Walla needs a new home for track & field

The 50-year-old cinder track at Wa-Hi can’t be used and Martin Field is barely functional for meets.

The cinder track at Wa-Hi after a snow-and-rain storm. Even without the puddles, the track is no longer acceptable for meets or practice.

The cinder track at Wa-Hi after a snow-and-rain storm. Even without the puddles, the track is no longer acceptable for meets or practice. Photo courtesy of Eric Hisaw

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The other day, while on a therapeutic walk, I was reminiscing about my youth as an athlete. My fond memories brought me back to the days at Pioneer Junior High School, where I had the privilege to have my uncle, Dave Klicker, as a track coach.

My uncle taught me so many aspects of the sport — the proper way to run and how to pole vault. But the real highlight was when he would show me a perfected example of how to correctly go over the hurdles. Uncle Dave’s greatest teaching moment, however, was being a teacher of life. His endless hours of teaching kindness, respect and sportsmanship made an incredible impact on me and so many other kids throughout the community over the years.

Where to donate

Big Blue Boosters Track Fund

6 E. Alder St., Suite 307

Walla Walla, WA 99362

Online at bigblueboosters.org

— click on “Funding for NEW Walla Walla Athletic Field”

My positive track experience didn’t end in junior high. I received the same positive influence at Walla Walla High School from Harvey Wellington, Ron Hunnington, Ken Reardon and Greg Fry.

The sport of track in Walla Walla is our culture, it’s a way of life. We have always had dynamic track teams as long as I can remember. And to this day, under the current guidance of Coach Eric Hisaw, we can be proud of our young men and women who continue to come together as a team to win district championships.

What was it that caused me to reminisce about those great memories? During my walk I decided to head over to Wa-Hi and make a couple of laps around the cinder track just to see the condition it’s in now. Wow, what a sight. This track definitely doesn’t reflect what our fabulous track teams represent.

We are one of the few, if not the only, 4A high school in the state sporting a cinder track. When the high school was completed in 1964 our cinder track was probably one of the nicest, if not the nicest cinder tracks, in the state.

It’s now 2014 and, 50 years later — ironically I guess — we can still say Walla Walla High School probably has the nicest 4A cinder track in the state.

Ouch!

As I continued my cardiovascular tour I even found a couple of old soda pop pull-tabs popping out of the cinder. I had to laugh. I took the pull-tabs home and showed them to my kids, now in their 20s. They could only guess as to what the antiquated pieces were. It won’t be long before the track could be roped off for archeological research.

Martin Field, adjacent to Borleske Stadium, is the only track in Walla Walla functional for high school track meets.

Sadly enough, “functional” is probably the only way to describe it.

I want to make it clear, this should be no reflection on the groundskeeper at the Borleske complex, Tim Duncan, and his staff. Tim does a remarkable job maintaining the track. He does everything he can to keep it safe and operable. I commend him for keeping it up as well as he does.

Unfortunately, the track is in rough condition, with a poor foundational base lying beneath the rubberized asphalt causing large cracks and potholes.

I’m proud of the kids who participate in track, and as a volunteer coach I enjoy working with each of them during the track season. It’s awesome to see so many people using the track at Martin Field year round.

I enjoy seeing the other local schools utilizing the facility for track meets and it’s rewarding to see the community have local events such as the Special Olympics, Walk For Life and fun runs, just to name a few. Unfortunately, the kids from Wa-Hi are often displaced and have to work out either at Wa-Hi’s gym or at the Garrison Middle School track.

The bottom line is this: We need a new high school track.

I’ve seen this community rally behind our kids before. We’ve worked together to help our kids strive to better themselves, and we have marvelous programs with superior coaches who teach them.

It’s important to see every student at Wa-Hi have the same opportunity that other high schools in the state provide. We need a place where students can participate in P.E., intramural sports and various school functions.

Wouldn’t it be great to have another place for our citizens to exercise and have more community events?

Now is the time. We need the community to come together and help get a new track. A group of local citizens, led by Scott Krivoshein, are taking the lead in getting a state-of-the-art track built at Wa-Hi.

Here’s the great news: We are extremely close to raising enough money to get the job done.

This small but diligent group of volunteers has been raising money, and we’ve been fortunate to receive commitments from very gracious donors.

Three phases for the project are planned. Phase one is to install the track, phase two is for lighting and phase three allows for a new artificial turf and facilities.

So far, $720,000 has been committed to the project. We are only $130,000 away from having enough money to complete phase one. Once we have the financial commitments we will be able to begin and complete phase one of the project.

We can make this happen. I have faith in our community because I know our community will support our kids!

Your contribution of any amount gets us that much closer to our goal, and is appreciated.

Go Blue Devils!

Mark Klicker, a lifetime resident of Walla Walla, is a member of the Wa-Hi Track Project Committee.

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